It’s the kind of block where neighbors say hello to each other, kids ride their bikes or play catch in the street. Even by Goodyear standards, the neighborhood is tidy and new, with dozens of homes being built near South Cotton Lane and West Van Buren Street.
The corner of Morning Glory Street and 174th Drive is quiet and peaceful — usually.
Except for one night, April 10, 2018.
“That was a scary night,” said a Morning Glory Street resident, who did not want to have his name used.
That night, he said, he and his girlfriend drank some wine and went to sleep early. “I got up to get some ice cream,” he said. “And I saw all the lights.”
Police cars were on the scene, emergency lights flashing.
Antoine Rogers was dead.
From the outside, the house looks suburban pacific; inside, it was deadly violent.
A group of armed men invaded the house, looking for money. Rogers confronted them.
In what would seem to be a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie, Rogers and one of the invaders aimed big guns and blasted away from close range.
But this was no movie. Rogers fell over, dead.
The other man dropped an AK-47 assault rifle and hobbled out of the house, screaming he was about to die. He passed Rogers’ girlfriend, who had gone out to empty the trash and was grabbed by one of the assailants, allowing the rest of the group to enter the home.
After the gun battle, when the intruders came running out of the home, the man holding the woman shoved her away. Before getting into a getaway car, he allegedly fired multiple shots at the home, in the direction the woman ran.
She wasn’t injured but found Rogers in a pool of blood. The 29-year-old father of two had wounds to his face, chest and legs.
Yet Antoine Rogers may have pointed police to his killer.
Goodyear Police interviewed a 23-year-old man with gunshot wounds at Banner Estrella Hospital shortly after Rogers was killed. The injured man told police he was shot somewhere in Phoenix and was nowhere near Goodyear.
But police matched his blood to blood left at the Goodyear crime scene and arrested Joseph Adam Gutierrez, now 25.
Gutierrez, called“Monster” by friends, and three others were arrested by Goodyear Police. They are being tried together on first-degree murder charges.
Gutierrez, Anthony Perry Cornejo, Gregorio Ruiz, Miguel Zamora and Eduardo Menchaca Jr. are scheduled to be in Maricopa County Superior Court Thursday, Jan. 9. This is the last scheduled “complex case management conference” meeting between the judge and attorneys, in accordance with Arizona’s laws regarding trials with a potential for capital punishment.
All five entered not guilty pleas in preliminary hearings.
First-degree murder is defined by the state as “Intending or knowing the person’s conduct will cause death, the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child, with premeditation.”
According to Arizona law, “First-degree murder is a class 1 felony and is punishable by death or life imprisonment.”
The trial of Gutierrez, Cornejo, Ruiz, Zamora and Menchaca is scheduled to begin March 30 - nearly two years after Rogers fell dead.
The first arrest
Although the trial process has been lengthy, Goodyear Police made fairly swift arrests, aided by evidence found at the murder scene.
Police apparently had little trouble linking the five, as each implicated the others.
Even though the group stressed they did not intend to kill him, four of the five allegedly confirmed they took part in a plan to rob Rogers.
Indeed, police found $33,000 at Rogers’ home - and four pounds of methamphetamine, which could be sold for about $10,000.
Police tracked the AK-47 left at Rogers’ home to Cornejo, who allegedly purchased it at a Cabela’s in Glendale.
Goodyear Police used a search warrant to enter Cornejo’s Phoenix apartment and arrested him April 18, 2018.
According to probable cause reports prepared by Noah Yeo, a Goodyear detective, Cornejo at first denied any part in Rogers’ killing.
“He later admitted to being the driver of the red vehicle used during the commission of the offense and named Joseph Gutierrez (also known as ‘Monster’) as being present when the offense was committed.”
According to Yeo, Cornejo, 22, said he was to be paid $500 for driving to and from the crime scene and he stayed in the vehicle while the other three went to Rogers’ home. “Shortly after the other three males exited the vehicle, Cornejo said he heard gunshots and began panicking. Cornjeo said the other three males jumped back into the car he was in and he found out Gutierrez had been shot,” according to Yeo’s report.
“He said Gutierrez was screaming ‘I’m gonna die’ and one of the other two males told him he would be all right.”
A big ‘lick’
Gutierrez, who gave a Surprise address as his residence, was the next to be arrested. According to Yeo’s report, the detective was told four days after the murder a blood sample taken from Gutierrez matched blood at the murder scene. Apparently, there was no rush to arrest Gutierrez, who “was in constant medical care, to include multiple surgeries to repair his wounds.”
Gutierrez was released from the hospital April 20, 2018, and taken directly to the Goodyear Police station.
“Gutierrez gave a confession, where he included Cornejo and Zamora’s involvement,” said Yeo’s report.
At first, Gutierrez allegedly told police “he has been lying low and was on the run because he violated his probation and had another (charge).” In 2013, Gutierrez was convicted of aggravated robbery and being a member of a street gang; he was 16 when he committed those crimes. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
According to Yeo’s report, while the detective was interviewing Gutierrez, “He started to talk about (Rogers’ murder) without being prompted by investigators. Gutierrez stated about two weeks ago he ran into his acquaintance from prison (Zamora), in the area of 55th Avenue and McDowell Road. Zamora, 27, gave Gutierrez his phone number and advised him about a ‘lick’ for ‘60 racks.’ Gutierrez advised a ‘lick’ was a robbery and ‘60 racks’ was $60,000. Gutierrez stated he was going to get a cut of the money for his involvement.”
Gutierrez allegedly told the Goodyear investigators he took Cornejo’s AK47 into Rogers’ home. Soon after he entered the home, he saw a man come around the corner, “which scared Gutierrez and caused him to shoot (Rogers).” He said he saw the man he shot fall, then “heard two more shots and realized his arm had been shot.”
He said he ran out of the house, then saw Zamora shoot at the house and the woman.
One didn’t talk
Gutierrez “picked Miguel Zamora out of a photographic lineup” and said he was at the murder, the report said.
Using this, Goodyear Police obtained a warrant to search Zamora’s Phoenix home. There, they found 40 rifles “and multiple silencers” - as well as bullets matching the ones used at the Goodyear murder scene.
Phoenix Police arrested Zamora April 21, 2018. He was convicted of a drive-by shooting in 2009, when he was 17. His five-year sentence was extended by two years for selling contraband in prison. He was released Sept. 17, 2018.
According to Yeo’s report, Zamora was the only one of the five arrested for Rogers’ murder who was not willing to talk, other than to say he did not kill the man.
From Zamora’s phone record, Goodyear investigators learned he was in contact with Menchaca shortly before Rogers was killed.
Goodyear Police arrested Menchaca, who gave an Avondale address as his residence, on April 25, 2018.
After first asking to have a lawyer, according to Yeo’s report, “Menchaca self-initiated contact with me from his holding cell. Menchaca told me he wanted to speak without a lawyer present. This was audio and video recorded.
“Menchaca explained he was involved in, set up and facilitated the robbery gone bad. Menchaca advised he was notified about (Rogers) having a large amount of U.S. currency. He coordinated with Miguel Zamora to gather suspects to accomplish the robbery.”
Menchaca, 29, told police he remained in the car during the home invasion and shooting.
Stating he considered Menchaca a flight risk, Yeo’s reported said, “Menchaca is currently on probation for arrest in 2009 regarding a robbery sting with the ATF where he was messaging an undercover agent stating, ‘shoot everybody in the house’ before he was arrested.”
During his interview, Menchaca allegedly told police Ruiz was involved in the crime, and gave them Ruiz’s Glendale address.
Guns, cash, drugs
On April 27, 2018, Ruiz was the last of the five alleged to have taken part in the killing to be arrested. According to the police report, investigators found multiple firearms, $18,000 and 50 pounds of marijuana at the residence where Ruiz was arrested. “During Ruiz’s interview, he confessed all of the listed marijuana belonged to him,” the report stated.
“He explained this marijuana was on loan with Ruiz ultimately selling/transporting large quantities to other buyers for profit.”
According to the report, Ruiz “confessed to setting up the robbery with Eduardo Menchaca and their intent was not to kill (Rogers) but to take his money.”
Ruiz, 28, allegedly told investigators he had been directed by “an unnamed source in Mexico” to collect money Rogers owed.
As bad as that night was at the corner house of 174th and Morning Glory, it could have been much worse.
According to police reports, during the deadly gun battle, Rogers’ two children, ages 2 and 8, “were within close proximity of (Rogers) when he was murdered.”
The children were not harmed.
In some neighborhoods, if there is trouble, residents lock their doors and turn off the lights. Here on 174th and Morning Glory, despite the possibility of gunmen returning, by the time police arrived, neighbors were at the bullet-riddled home on the corner, trying to comfort Rogers’ girlfriend and children.
It’s that kind of block.